New project: full spectrum DSLR modification

Being a lifelong Nikon user, it always feels like an uphill battle against the superior range of ready-made accessories for astrophotography with a Canon.  The Nikon D50, however, now goes for about fifty quid on eBay, and it has some of the biggest pixels available on an APS-C sensor.  Bigger pixels catch more photons from the night sky, and DSLR sensors generate electrical signals based on photon counts.  The D50 has 6.1MP, each 7.8μm square, individually twice the size of the 5.5μm square of my 12.3MP D90.

I took the camera to bits when it arrived, stripping it right down to remove the UV/IR filter from in front of the sensor.  The filter is built into every DSLR, rendering it insensitive to light outside the visible spectrum (UV and IR) which would ruin normal photos.  Astrophotos, however, need to capture the red-glowing nebulosity just outside the visible range – hence the filter removal commonly known as astro-modification.   With only a slight variation, I followed the very clear instructions here.   These are uncharted waters for me, so we’ll see what happens.

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Fliter removed…

The D50 uses SD cards, so no new kit needed there.

Unfortunately the D50 has no socket to attach the electronic equivalent of a cable release, so it’s out with the soldering iron and a small twist drill.  Find the terminals under the shutter release button, solder in some wires, bring them out through the camera body and attach a 2.5mm jack socket.  Convert the end of my existing interval timer (eBay again, a fiver) to a jack plug.

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Shutter release rewired…

Full testing will have to wait a while, but I’ll update this post as the project develops.  Watch this space!

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